Every year for the last fifteen years, the World Bank has organized “The Conference on Land and Poverty,” ostensibly to discuss how to “improve land governance.” And every year, the World Bank Group has been accused of financing projects that support often brutal grabbing of land and other resources from local communities. This year, the 16th such gathering will take place in Washington DC, March 23 to 27. And yet again, the hypocrisy of their claims to be leaders of just and fair land reform will be called out, with opponents pointing to the impact of some of their recent investments in places like Uganda (2011), Honduras (2012), and Cambodia (2014). The big question is whose interests the World Bank really serves. While they spend considerable time and money painting themselves as champions of the poor, the Bank has a battery of practices and policies that suggest a very different truth.
A group of “concerned citizens” occupied Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral to protest about wealth inequality and benefit cuts. The group of around 20, including some children, protested near the altar at the front of the church. They came with a banner which read “We Need Sanctuary”, which they hung from a balcony high up in the cathedral. The group protested about benefit sanctions, wealth inequality, and new legislation regulating protests which was introduced last year. They want the church to speak out against austerity, and a repeat of 1985’s “Faith in the City” report into urban poverty. Organiser Ruby Sands said: “It’s really important because there’s people dying right now in this city. “There’s massive wealth division, it’s not being touched upon. People are killing themselves, and we need sanctuary.”
More than 2,500 families are occupying six properties in Brazil’s Federal District as part of a protest organized by the MTST Homeless Workers Movement, the organization said Sunday. The coordinated occupation was carried out peacefully in Brazlandia, Ceilandia, Planaltina, Recanto das Emas, Samambaia and Taguatinga, all of them cities in the Brasilia metropolitan area. The protesters plan to occupy the properties until an agreement is reached with the regional government, the MTST said. “We are going to stay here until there is an agreement with the government (of the Federal District). We spoke with them on Saturday and we set a new meeting for Tuesday,” the MTST coordinator in Brasilia, Edson Silva, told Efe.
Dozens of demonstrators briefly blocked access to a municipal court in this tiny, troubled St. Louis suburb on Thursday night, protesting a local government that relies heavily on revenue from traffic tickets and municipal code violations to survive. The city of Pine Lawn, which sits on just over half a square mile of land about 10 minutes from Ferguson, has around 3,000 mostly black residents, nearly a third of whom live below the poverty line. Pine Lawn does not have enough of a tax base to survive without extracting hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from residents and drivers passing through the city. The number of warrants generated in 2013 alone surpasses the entire population of the city, and police that year issued seven tickets for every resident, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“A long time ago, when I was a student,” said Olga Kesidou, sunk low in the single, somewhat clapped-out sofa of the waiting room at the Peristeri Solidarity Clinic, “I’d see myself volunteering. You know, in Africa somewhere, treating sick people in a poor developing country. I never once imagined I’d be doing it in a suburb of Athens.” Few in Greece, even five years ago, would have imagined their recession- and austerity-ravaged country as it is now: 1.3 million people – 26% of the workforce – without a job (and most of them without benefits); wages down by 38% on 2009, pensions by 45%, GDP by a quarter; 18% of the country’s population unable to meet their food needs; 32% below the poverty line. And just under 3.1 million people, 33% of the population, without national health insurance.
The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting began this week in Davos, Switzerland. The meeting convenes “global leaders from across business, government, international organizations, academia and civil society for strategic dialogues which map the key transformations reshaping the world.” The hope is that the dialogue will lead to action on the part of the participating nations to improve conditions in their own communities, with an understanding that we are all globally connected. The idea is that the actions in one community can affect another anywhere in the world. The current state of global economic inequality shows just how tenuous that connection is. In what has now become tradition, Oxfam International, a confederation of organizations dedicated to fighting poverty, issued a report on the current state of economic inequality.
Sen. Charles Grassley said nonprofit hospitals could be breaking the law when they sue poor patients over unpaid bills and issued a stern warning to one Missouri hospital that he hopes reverberates nationwide. Citing a ProPublica and NPR report, Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter Friday to Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri, that has seized the wages of thousands of lower income workers who were unable to pay their medical bills. Under federal law, tax-exempt hospitals are supposed to provide care to those who can’t afford it, but the requirements are fairly vague.
Following the President’s State of the Union on January 20, the Green Party US invited several speakers to present a People’s State of the Union. Rather than the charade, manipulative stories and lies told in the President’s SOTU, these speakers hosted by Green Party Presidential Candidate in 2012 Dr. Jill Stein spoke of the realities that people in the US face with falling wages, rising poverty, environmental and racial injustice and more. The people spoke about real solutions to the crises we are facing – solutions that will not be embraced by our corrupt and plutocratic government but that must be demanded and created by an organized and mobilized populace. The theme of the President’s SOTU was inequality. And while some of the solutions he presented sound great, Dr. Stein noted that he waited six years, until he had a Republican Congress that would block them before he proposed them. She urged people not to succumb to his rhetoric.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most revolutionary 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” marked his movement, from civil rights to a critique of capitalism, a year before he died. Looking “beyond Vietnam,” King questioned a US policy of interventions in foreign countries to defeat not only “Communist tyranny,” but any opposition to the corporate-capitalist system of imperialism and oppression that protects corporate interests and the wealth and power of the ruling classes. “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people,” he said, “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” He called for a “revolution of values,” a shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. King envisioned “a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation.”
Currently, 46 million people are living in poverty in the United States, 16.4 million children (23% of children) and 20 million are in deep poverty. 100% of Republican senators have agreed to vote to eliminate the food stamp program. Senator David Perdue (R-GA) makes the sadly ironic claim on his campaign website that he was one of the millions of Americans who would support free market solutions to feeding the nation. Doesn’t he realize that so-called free market capitalism is actually the cause of the poverty problem? The wealth and income divides are part and parcel of the big finance capitalist economy that sends money from the middle class and poor to the already extreme wealthy. Can anyone really imagine those who seek profit from everything being a solution to poverty? Last January 89 Democrats voted to cut food stamps by $8.7 billion as part of the farm bill which President Obama signed. This was just one of a series of bills cutting the essential poverty program for which Democrats joined with Republicans, in a bi-partisan attack on people in poverty.
When San Jose dismantled the “Jungle,” the nation’s largest homeless encampment, many of its residents with nowhere to go scattered. They found hiding places in the scores of small, less visible encampments within the city, where more than 5,000 people sleep unsheltered on a given night. But one group of about three dozen evictees gathered what they could salvage in backpacks and trash bags, and crossed a bridge to a spot about a mile away. They found a clean patch of grass near Coyote Creek, the same creek that the Jungle abutted. There, they pitched tents donated by some concerned citizens, assigned themselves chores and hoped for the best.
ArborGen’s GE Eucalyptus trees will be an ecological disaster. They are non-native, invasive, water-greedy, suppress the growth of other vegetation, provide no habitat for wildlife, and are explosively flammable. And ArborGen wants to see them in huge plantations along the US Gulf Coast. So if the GE chestnut tree is truly “intended solely for the public good,” why is ArborGen involved? Why are they promoting them? For one reason. The GE American chestnut tree is being used to try to convince the public that GE trees can be beneficial. The hope is that they will help change the extremely powerful public opposition to GE trees and open up markets for new GE tree “products” that could mean big big profits for timber and biomass companies.
Start with this: Poverty kills, too. And like police shootings, it targets the weakest. But unlike police shootings, the number of deaths from poverty isn’t a mystery. There’s considerable research on it, from places like Columbia University, the University of Chicago, the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Disease Control. The most straightforward figure comes from a 2011 Columbia University study: 291,000 a year. You read that right. Two hundred ninety-one thousand. To borrow a phrase from the Ferguson protests, where’s the outrage? By way of comparison, heart disease, America’s top killer, causes some 600,000 deaths yearly, one in four total deaths, according to the CDC. Next comes cancer at 575,000. Respiratory disease is third at 143,000, followed by stroke and accidental injury.
The 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger, released today by Bread for the World Institute, identifies the empowerment of women and girls as essential in ending hunger, extreme poverty, and malnutrition around the world and in the United States. “We have made great strides in reducing hunger and poverty at home and around the world, yet women continue to be treated like second-class citizens,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “Progress towards women’s empowerment has been slow due to discriminatory laws, unpaid work caring for the family, and traditions that demean their capacity as decision makers.” “Eliminating barriers and empowering women around the world is key to ending hunger in our time,” said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. “We must not tolerate discrimination against women and instead, demand a comprehensive approach to women’s empowerment that includes applying a gender lens to all programs and policies.”
In 2013, the United Nations announced that the world’s agricultural needs can be met with localized organic farms. That’s right, we do not need giant monocultures that pour, spray and coat our produce with massive amounts of poisons, only to create mutant pests and weeds while decimating pollinators and harming human health. Don’t believe the hype: We do not need genetically modified foods “to feed the world.” From my experience, many of these – how shall we say it – “worker bees” (i.e the GMO salesmen) who spread this propaganda, actually believe conventional tactics are necessary to ensure food security. They’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and cannot envision another possibility. The changes threaten their very existence.